Fidel Castro assumed power of Cuba in 1959, initially as prime-minister until 1976, when the posts of prime minister and President were combined in a socialist restructuring of things, with Fidel thus becoming not only head of government but also head of state.
In the early days of the revolution, Camilo Cienfuegos was considered number 2 in the revolution, until he died in a plane crash, with number 3 being everyone’s favourite t-shirt designer, Mr Ernesto Che Guevara, who of course died trying to spread revolution in Bolivia. Following their deaths Fidel’s younger brother Raul was left as number 2, a position he held until 2008 when Fidel unofficially stood down, and Raul unofficially began to run the country on a day to day level.
Fidel became thus not only head of government, but also head of state.
Early on, when Fidel declared that it was socialist in nature, many believe and have stated that Fidel was not an actual communist, but had been led into the warm bosom of the Soviet Union through pragmatism, rather than dogmatism. The same could not be said of Che for example, who was an open communist and revolutionary, but also the same was true of Raul, who was a declared communist long before the start of the revolution, and certainly embraced the line of his brother when it was declared.
So for many years Raul was considered a conservative (in the communist sense of the word) influence on Fidel, so when he took defacto power in 2008, and then dejure power in 2011 many expected the changes to be either small, or limited, with the most likely result being a communist style shifting of cronies, but what happened next marked by far the biggest changes in how the country operates since the revolution.
The first thing he did, which sounded small to outsiders, but has completely changed the landscape of the country was to allow a number of self-employed professions to be done legally. This has created an entrepreneurial class, as well as a middle class without giving up any political power, and more importantly, without going too far into wild-west style capitalism, like many would argue countries such as China and Vietnam have done.
He also did this whilst offering a fairly big olive branch to the USA, and managing to repair relations to such a level that not only did Obama visit the country, but there was even propaganda showing Raul and Obama as best of friends, something which when you look back to the Bush years, or the current Trump incarnation would have seemed frankly impossible.
Has a strong reputation for not being corrupt, and during his time in local government was seen as an extremely competent leader that got things done.
Another important move when Raul took over was to state that he would serve two 4 year terms only, before handing over power to a new generation of leaders. This will happen in early April of 2018, and the most likely scenario is that Miguel Diaz-Canel will be elected as (give full title)
He is known to be a Raul loyalist, and to be from the conservative wing of the party, which in communist terms means he is from the left, rather than the right. Has a strong reputation for not being corrupt, and during his time in local government was seen as an extremely competent leader that got things done.
Whether the reforms the country further or moves it back to the left is anyone’s guess, but it is unlikely that he will dismantle the system, certainly at least
whilst his mentor, and sponsor Raul Castro is still alive.
But where he decides to steer contemporary Communist Cuba, in a world where the left is disappearing and the rise of the right-wing strongman seems to move like a plague is anyone’s guess.
I personally hope he manages to preserve the best elements, and successes of the Cuban Revolution, whilst continuing to improve the lives of the citizens of Cuba. I also hope that is done within the framework of the existing system. Surely any world that has Trump, Erdogan, and Duterte leading huge nations through fear and hate needs a Red Cuba?